New Hampshire or Vermont
Changes to a proposed wind farm in Sheffield and Sutton will put Barton in the center of activity and that has some residents concerned.
Residents urged selectmen during a meeting of the board Monday night to file for party status with the Vermont Public Service Board so the town can have a say in the process, Rupert Chamberlin, chairman of the board, said Wednesday.
“Near as I can tell, there is a lot of concern,” Chamberlin said. “But the select board hasn’t taken a stand yet.”
Nobody at the meeting except wind development company employees spoke in favor of the renewable energy project, which would produce up to 40 megawatts of power for Washington Electric Co-op in East Montpelier and other Vermont utilities. Vermont utilities are facing the loss of a large chunk of their stable low-cost power sources in several years and consider wind as an environmentally sound solution.
But most of the roughly 90 people attending the first public hearing held in Barton said they did not see what they would get out of it except a spoiled view and noise from construction.
Johnson and Larosa said they only prepared to address transportation issues and could not answer a broad range of questions ranging from “what’s your budget?” to “who owns the company?” This appeared to anger some people.
The Barton Planning Commission has held hearings on both its revised town plan and a petition, signed by more than 200 of Barton's 2,500 residents, asking that the plan specifically prohibit commercial and industrial wind. At the latest hearing, about 25 people showed up and watched a slide show produced by JoAnn Stefanski, who has been instrumental in launching the petition drive and fighting the possible introduction of commercial wind in Barton
Barton's petition is in response to UPC Wind's intention to put up 16 wind turbines in Sheffield, a plan the Vermont Public Service Board has approved, and one that a slim majority of Sheffield voters said they supported at a special town meeting two years ago.
A big and vocal minority continues to oppose the project and will file a Vermont Supreme Court appeal of the PSB decision next week. Meanwhile, they have asked for a halt to construction, saying that UPC Wind has failed to meet some of the 32 conditions that the PSB has imposed on the project.
When residents here show up next week at a special town meeting to decide if the town should take a position on the Sheffield wind farm proposal, the question of home rule will inevitably arise.
Home rule or local control has suddenly come center stage of the wind debate, thanks in part to recent testimony on the Sheffield wind project from the Department of Public Service (DPS).
Presented last month to the Public Service Board, that testimony specifically supports the siting of the project’s wind towers —everything else being equal — in the towns that want them.
BARTON – Officials here plan to canvass voters about the impact of a potential wind generation project nearby that has stirred up controversy since developers said they would re-route major construction traffic through the village.
Barton is a small picturesque hill town located just north of the proposed 16-turbine Sheffield Wind Farm. It is several miles north of St. Johnsbury on Interstate 91 just below the Canadian border and is home to Crystal Lake State Park, a popular Northeast Kingdom tourist destination.
Barton selectmen have warned a special town meeting for Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Barton Municipal Building to see if local voters want the town to weigh in before the Vermont Public Service Board as it reviews the project, and if voters want selectmen to endorse the project before the PSB.
Barton borders both of the towns that would host the turbines, Sheffield and Sutton, and at least 14 of the 16 398-foot tall wind turbines would be in direct view of Crystal Lake’s public beach from about five miles away, according to application information.
The prospect of truck traffic carrying wind turbine parts through the village of Barton has prompted officials here to request details on plans for building the proposed Sheffield Wind Farm.
“We had been hearing rumors they (UPC Wind Management) were coming up Route 16 (and) turning on to Duck Pond Road,” to deliver construction materials, said Brian Hanson, Barton Village supervisor, who oversees electricity, water, sewer and roads for village residents. “I found out from other parties, then we requested a meeting with them.”
Well above the number of required voters have signed a petition in Barton asking that the town plan be changed to ban commercial and industrial wind power.
Members of the Ladies Improvement Society and others launched a petition to change the town plan, which is up for review, so that commercial wind turbines would be prohibited in Barton. About 200 people signed the petition out of 1,600 registered voters, JoAnn Stefanski said. ...The petition drive is a response to UPC Wind's project planned for Sheffield, which has been approved by the Vermont Public Service Board with conditions.
BARTON — News that the Sheffield wind project will use access roads here to transport industrial turbines and towers to ridge line sites has prompted selectmen to seek an expanded role in the hearings before the Public Service Board (PSB).
Following a Monday night meeting that saw citizens call for a more active role, the Barton Town Selectmen voted to petition the board for party status in the case.
“I’m not saying one way or the other right now where we stand on the issue,” Chairman Rupert Chamberlin said in an interview Tuesday. He was reluctant to get the town involved in the ongoing debate over wind.
Bats are dying off by the thousands as they hibernate in caves and mines around New York and Vermont, sending researchers scrambling to find the cause of mysterious condition dubbed "white nose syndrome."
The ailment - named for the white circle of fungus found around the noses of affected bats - was first noticed last January in four caves west of Albany. It has now spread to eight hibernation sites in the state and another in Vermont.
Alan Hicks, a bat specialist with New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, called the quick-spreading disorder the "gravest threat" to bats he had ever seen. Up to 11,000 bats were found dead last winter and many more are showing signs illness this winter. One hard-hit cave went from more than 15,000 bats two years ago to 1,500 now, he said.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has issued the first permit of its kind for a wind project in the state allowing a small number of fatalities of endangered bats, which could collide with the turbine blades or be affected by the pressure changes created by the rotating turbines.
The Nelsons aren't done fighting back. They've hired the Norwich law firm Hershenson, Carter, Scott and McGee to fight Green Mountain Power in court, including a contention that part of the land where Green Mountain Power plans to blast is actually owned by the Nelsons.
"This is going to be settled in court," Nelson said.
The Green Mountain National Forest has postponed making a recommendation on whether Deerfield Wind LLC should get a special use permit to build wind turbines on national forest land.
Meg Mitchell, the forest supervisor, said she decided to defer making a decision until the Vermont Public Service Board finishes reviewing the project and makes a decision.
At the same time, officials issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed project, which would be the first on forest service property, raising concerns about its impact on bears.
The Burlington Electric Department announced Tuesday that it will buy 40 percent of the power and renewable energy certificates from a Sheffield wind farm at a fixed price for the next 10 years.
The agreement with Vermont Wind moves BED toward its goal of generating electricity through renewable sources within the next "four or so years," BED general manager Barbara Grimes said.
"The town manager, Stuart Hurd, pulled the utility records for the town and it looks like the rates that all of the buildings are charged are too low to justify the net-metering price that we could get as a credit. ... We still remain interested in the landfill for a potential project in the future, a much larger-scale project in the future," he said.
About 350 people turned out to talk about Vermont's energy future and how to fill future demand. Many different renewable energy sources were topics of discussion during the all-day event.
Not included, however, was industrial wind, an omission that disappointed some attendees. Gov. Jim Douglas spoke to the group for about 15 minutes and never mentioned the word "wind." Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie was more to the point.
"I am an unabashed supporter of wind," Dubie told the crowd.
Up here in sparsely settled Northeast Kingdom, Sheffield Wind has touched off a bitter debate engulfing residents and town governments in half a dozen communities that will share unequally in the wind farm’s costs and benefits.
What Sheffield selectmen see as a boon to their tiny community, other towns see as a threat to their scenic beauty, tourism, economy and property values.
In Vermont the parties are still waiting for a decision on the Sheffield project, which was argued before the high court in May. A clerk at the Supreme Court said Tuesday she has no idea when a decision might be announced.
Meanwhile, the opponents of big wind in western New York believe they are finally getting the recognition they deserve with this month's announcement by the AG's office in Albany.
Governors of the six New England states met July 9 for their New England Governors Conference meeting in Boston to discuss energy and try to forge, among other things, an agreement on funding new transmission lines to bring electricity from remote wind and biomass power plants in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire to the urban centers on the Eastern Seaboard.
The state chief executives met in private for what was reported to be some free and candid bargaining, but participants later confirmed that New Hampshire will likely have to go it alone if it wants expand transmission capability in Coos County in order to make renewable energy projects with a total of between 300 and 400 megawatts a reality.
"And I think the reason you're seeing folks come around on this issue is that members are beginning to see projects proposed in their districts, and so are beginning to understand what it actually means for their constituents," he said.
Senate President John Campbell says the vote count in favor of the moratorium could be as high as 18.
With no regional solution in sight, New Hampshire should establish a commission to take charge of expanding electric transmission capacity in the North Country, a state senator said Tuesday.
Without more transmission capacity, development of renewable power is largely stymied in New Hampshire, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark told a Senate committee. Clark said her bill would create a single entity to develop a plan to pay for the expansion. ...
So far, the upgrade has not won support from ISO New England, which manages power for the region and would decide if all New England electric users would benefit and consequently should share in its cost.